Friday, 17 December 2021

Cost effective storage solution #1: Oil pastels and Gelatos

 One thing I love about my journey as an artist is experimenting with new materials. Good quality art materials are expensive, so I usually start with a small set and then expand if I like the medium. This means that keeping the materials in their original packaging becomes a pain.

Every time I am in the mood to play with the medium, I have to take them out, “unbox” them, sort the colours, and only then will they be ready to play with. Trust me by this time, I am either bored, frustrated, or found something else to draw or paint with instead.

I am also of the opinion that I would rather spend my money on the materials, and not the means to store them to make it more easily accessible.

So finding a supplier (actually the manufacturer) of these wooden boxes made my life much easier.

I didn't buy all the boxes at the same time, so I can safely say that their quality is consistent and that is good thing of you need to expand your storage space.

Wooden box with Faber-Castell Gelatos
Wooden box with Faber-Castell Gelatos
As you can see my Faber-Castell Gelatos found a prefect home outside their original packaging. I have two of these boxes for my Gelatos. Since each box is sub-divided into four sections, it works well for storing the colours. You can comfortably fit 12 Gelato sticks in each section (3 layers of 4).

I sort my colours into 8 groups: 1) blue, 2) green, 3) yellow, 4) orange, 5) red and pink, 6) purple, 7) brown, and 8) the neutrals (white, grey, black), so two boxes do the job.

Wooden box with oil pastels
Wooden box with oil pastels from 3 brands

Since the oil pastels are a bit shorter than the Gelatos, they fit the box's sections the other way.

A few months after I bought the boxes for the Gelatos, I started an oil pastel project and the struggle happened all over again. This time it was worse because I have many more oil pastel sticks that I had to sort in separate containers before I could work on the painting.

The Gelato boxes were close at hand, and I decided to see if they could also be used for the oil pastels.

To my happy surprise the oil pastels fit perfectly too, so I ordered some more.

I have oil pastels from 3 different brands: Faber-Castell, Mungyo, and Mont Marte. They are all the same length although differ slightly in width.

I used the same colour grouping mentioned above, and could fit 24 oil pastel sticks in each section. (3 layers of 8 sticks)

If you need more space, the dividers inside the boxes can be removed to make halves in either direction.

The boxes are made from MDF, so if you are concerned about water exposure, I suggest that you varnish them inside and out before stocking your materials. They can also be decorated if you prefer a more colourful look to a plain wooden box.

The boxes are available from BidorBuy.co.za or directly from the manufacturer's website, BuzzCreations.co.za - I don't know if they ship internationally, but I suggest you contact them to ask. Right now they are closed for the festive season so no orders will ship until next year.

Keep an eye out for more useful product reviews and suggestions from this supplier in future blog posts.



Friday, 10 December 2021

Book Release Day! 🖤 SARAH KILLIAN: THE MARCHING TIDES by Mark Sheldon 🖤

 

Book 3 in a trilogy of dark humor novels, this hilarious series follows the bloody journey of Sarah Killian, a strong female…serial killer for hire.

Hi there! Sarah Killian, your friendly neighbourhood serial killer, back again for more bloody, violent fun.

For my final mission, I (begrudgingly) team up with my good for nothing, S.O.B. assassin ex, Jason. Why would I do such a crazy thing? Well, aside from the obvious answer that I am crazy, we are fleeing from the mysterious organization known only as the Marching Tides—a collective hell-bent on bringing down the Trusted Hierarchy of Everyday Murderers (T.H.E.M.) and exposing their shady dealings to the world at large.

As Jason and I try—often unsuccessfully—to stay one step ahead of the Marching Tides and their nefarious associates, we draw ever closer to the shocking truth of who the mastermind behind the Marching Tides really is.

Something tells me I’ll regret learning the answers at the end of my journey.

Buy @ AMAZON

Excerpt from Chapter 1

My name is Sarah, and I work for a super-secret organization called the Trusted Hierarchy of Everyday Murderers (T.H.E.M.) that employs Professional Serial Killers (P.S.K.’s), and assassins. I hate, hate, hate assassins – so I find it particularly appropriate that their title starts with two asses.


T.H.E.M. is contracted by various entities—a few wealthy private citizens and corporations who can afford us, but most of our work comes from the government. Completely off the books, of course.


Assassins’ work is pretty boring and straightforward, so I won’t waste my time on them. The P.S.K.’s is where T.H.E.M. gets innovative. As a P.S.K., when on a project I get sent to a location, usually for several months—if not years—at a time, where I integrate myself into the community under a pseudonymous ‘Dupe’ personality. My Dupe personality is the everyday person who just goes to work and lives their life and is my cover for being in the area of the murders.


Meanwhile, I also have to create the persona of the killer—the ‘Herring.’ The Herring for each project has to have a unique M.O. and set of characteristics that distinguish itself from other projects I may have worked on, to avoid anyone being able to connect the dots from one project to another. I also have to make sure no one connects the dots between my Dupe personality and my Herring personality.


Fortunately, seeing as I mentioned the government is one of our biggest contractors, we have a certain amount of immunity from the F.B.I., but there are enough Private Dicks in the world that it’s not a bad idea to take the extra precaution.


As you can imagine, the fact that many serial killers suffer from multiple personality disorders lends itself well to developing these dual personas when on a project.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Sheldon is the author of The Noricin Chronicles and the Sarah Killian: The Joy of Killing series. He lives in Southern California with his wife Betsy.

Follow Mark on FACEBOOK and AMAZON









Monday, 29 November 2021

Celebrating my birthday with a discount 😂

💜 🖤 Celebrate my birthday with me this week. 🖤 💜

Get 53% off for two of my ebooks.
Yup, my age is the discount!
🤣 🤣


Links to the right --->

Thursday, 4 November 2021

Book feature: DAWN'S DESIRE by Shilpa Suraj


One night of passion, a stolen moment of joy and six years of pain...


Rishi Khatri cannot forget the beautiful woman who swept into his life for one incredible night and then disappeared...with the contents of his wallet and large chunks of his heart.
Until the day, he meets Sehar again and he realises that he cannot forgive her. For, Rishi has made a cardinal mistake. He's fallen in love with his one night stand.
Sehar Mirza's one night of rebellion destroyed any chance of a normal future. But her heart cannot regret her choice. For in that one night, she laughed, she loved and she lost. She lived an entire lifetime.
When their paths cross again, Sehar and Rishi find their feelings for each other haven't dimmed. All they want in life is another chance, a second chance.
But Sehar has a secret. One that will destroy their tentative happiness.
Can they learn to look beyond their past mistakes and hope for a shared future? Can Rishi forgive a betrayal so large that it leaves his already battered heart in pieces at Sehar's feet? Can love win? Or will loss claim their destiny for its own again?

Book Links:

Read an Excerpt from Dawn's Desire


His home looked exactly as I’d expected it to. Meticulously curated, tastefully furnished and anally maintained. 

“You live alone?” I asked, as he handed me fresh towels and herded me towards the guest bedroom.

“Did you think I had a secret wife stashed away in my cupboard or something?” 

I shrugged. “Stranger things have happened.” 

He came to an abrupt halt in front of me. “Really? Like what?”

I gave him what I hoped was an enigmatic smile but what was, in reality, probably more constipated. 

With one last weirded-out look, he pushed the door of a room open and stepped back. “This is the guest bedroom. It has an attached toilet. If you need anything, let me know.” 

With that, he was gone before I could thank him or say any of the hundred other things bubbling through me. I dropped the duffel bag I’d carried along on the beautifully made bed and took in my surroundings. 

The entire room was done in shades of pastel green and cream and had a soothing effect on my otherwise frazzled nerves. My finger trailed over a summery yellow porcelain bowl on the bedside table with potpourri in it. 

Who kept his home so immaculate for him? Jealousy speared through me as I took in the many feminine touches to the room. I shook it off and marched into the bathroom to wash the day’s dirt and grief off of me. 

The hot spray of water from the shower boiled my skin and cleansed my soul. I took a deep breath as I wrapped my hair in a towel, changed into a comfortable pair of shorts and a t-shirt and followed my nose to the drawing room. 

Rishi held out a bowl of steaming hot deliciousness. “Chicken Pad Thai okay?” he asked. 

I nodded, taking the bowl from him. “Thank you.” 

He gave me a brief smile before picking up his own bowl and digging in. He had a copy of the latest book by Lee Child beside him.

“How are you enjoying that?” I asked, pointing with my fork to the book. 

He moved his hand in a so-so gesture saying, “Not sure if it is the book or my mood though.”

I bit my tongue. I really did. But it wagged anyway. 

“Is there something wrong with your mood?” I asked. 

His fork froze on the way to his mouth. “Nothing that concerns you,” he answered, quietly. 

It stung but I forced myself to look serene as I dug into my dinner. 

“You haven’t asked me yet,” I pushed my food around. “Why my parents threw me out of the house? Don’t you want to know?” 

“I haven’t asked you about many things, Sehar.” He reached casually for the television remote and turned it on. “Why would I start now?” 

This time it hurt to breathe. I sucked in a harsh gasp but it did nothing but burn its way through me. 

“I tried to explain my behaviour that night to you in Goa.” 

“And I told you I wasn’t interested in your explanation.” He kept his gaze on the television even as he increased the volume to drown me out. 

“Rishi, I never meant to-“ 

The television clicked off, the silence that fell in the room as abrupt as it was complete. 

He turned towards me, finally, fury burning in his gaze, his knuckles turning white from his grip on his bowl. 

“Is it so hard for you to understand that I am not interested in discussing that night with you? Ever? You lied to me, you slept with me, you used me and you stole from me…whatever your so-called justifications are, Sehar…I don’t care!” 

My throat locked, my apology crumbling and dying inside me. 

“Are we clear?” he asked, softly. 

“Crystal,” I forced out. 

“Good.” He turned the television on again, letting the sound wash over us. 

Silently, I ate every last bite in my bowl before walking to the kitchen to wash and stack it on the drying tray. 

I stopped at the entrance to the living room and watched him eat and stare at the television as if my presence in his home made no difference to him. 

We both knew better. We were both experts at pretending differently though. 

“I’ll be gone in the morning,” I told the back of his head. 

“You always are.” He increased the volume again until I thought the windows would shatter. 

Or maybe I would. 

About the Author:

Shilpa Suraj wears many hats - corporate drone, homemaker, mother to a fabulous toddler and author.

An avid reader with an overactive imagination, Shilpa has weaved stories in her head since she was a child. Her previous stints at Google, in an ad agency and as an entrepreneur provide colour to her present day stories, both fiction and non-fiction.



Contact the Author:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Newsletter




Sunday, 24 October 2021

Personal blog: #StoicWeek2021 - Saturday and Sunday

Sunday evening, 20h13, last day of Stoic Week 2021.

I said in my Friday post that I would post yesterday, but I did not. Unlike the previous time I did not post, this time it was a decision not to do so. My Stoic practice was not neglected, but I was working on the project I mentioned before. I decided to rather give it as a birthday gift instead of waiting until Christmas, and needed to work to get it done urgently - her birthday is this coming week. The basic construction of the book is completed - I finished it about two hours ago - but there is still some work to be done before it is ready as a gift.

It also means that I spent most of today working on it. Aside from the time I had to draw today's Inktober prompt (you can see it here) and preparing for the prompt for tomorrow, and a few chores, most of my day was spent on the book. Still no new bone folder, but I managed. It can be frustrating to wait for glue to dry (boring, right?) especially since the deadline moved from weeks to days. Unfortunately, I cannot use a hairdryer like I can for a watercolour painting. Patience is the only option. LOL!

Source: Stoic Week 2021

I have read that some people believe that Stoicism cannot be practiced by creatives because it dampens the creative spirit (it is after all a rational philosophy) but from personal experience I found it to be the opposite. Even though I am not a professional artist or writer (meaning that I don't earn my primary income from the sale of my art or books), Stoicism has also helped me in my creative endeavours.

Here is how it works for me:

1. Self-control: Procrastination is the universal enemy for many creatives, myself included. I have not won this battle (yet), but I find that the discipline of "getting out of bed, and doing my duty" (a creative reference to Marcus Aurelius's Meditations 5.1) is the essence to getting things done. Inspiration is a thing, but the muse works when you do - by showing up and doing the work. (You can learn more about getting things done in this YouTube video. I can definitely recommend the book discussed in the video.)

Practice makes better. I have been writing since 2000, and doing art since 2012 (Stoicism since 2018) and only by showing up and doing the work can you improve.

2. Wisdom: I found it interesting that the VIA Institute questionnaire results indicated that Wisdom is my number one character strength. I wish I could say it came with age, but I know it is not the case: age has very little to do with wisdom. I am far from being wise, but I have learned over the years that learning something from a book, or video, or other means, can only benefit oneself with actual practice. Learn, practice, and adjust where necessary. The same applies for Stoicism and any creative skill: learn a technique, practice it, adjust where you didn't get it right, or go back and study it again. Only with this iterative process can one improve - whether it is learning to draw, write a novel, or become better at being a Stoic.

It is for this reason that the words from Epictetus resonate with me from the moment I read it the first time, to right now when I can see on the wall of my office: First say to yourself what you would be; then do what you have to do. 

Whether I am doing my daily job (business owner, and consulting engineer), studying and practicing Stoicism, being an artist, art teacher, or writer - I have to show up and do the work.

If Stoicism is something that resonates with you, then be patient with yourself. Becoming a better human being is a lifelong endeavour.

A last note from me before I conclude my comments on Stoic Week 2021: I am a Christian (Calvinist) and I practice Stoicism within that belief system.

All the best with your Stoicism study and practice - until next time!

🙋‍♀️💜 Linzé


Friday, 22 October 2021

Personal blog: #StoicWeek2021 - Thursday and Friday

Hello there!

It's Friday! 😂 22 October, 20h45 as I start this post.

Yesterday, Thursday, completely got away from me. I am sure you know exactly what I mean. I only popped out to a shop, to try and buy a bone folder (more on that next), but remained at home for the rest of the day, mostly because I didn't have work to do. It might sound weird because I did mention a nightmarish job list, but it did happen. My work as a safety certification engineer requires that I do tests that can sometimes cause damage to equipment. Since the client indicated that they would repair or replace the equipment for me to continue testing, I had to wait until they did. So I went to the lab today and finished the tests (probably damaging it again) but now it's done and I have the report to finish.

Source: Stoic Week

I mentioned my difficulties in obtaining a bone folder to a colleague, when he looked at me as if I grew a horn from my forehead. LOL! After explaining that it is a tool mostly used in book binding, I told him about the lack of available stock at almost every art/craft shop in my city. I have a bone folder but it is damaged and I have to be careful otherwise it tears the paper I am currently working with. Yup, I am making two books and I worked on them most of the day. I will try another shop next week, but it is a long shot. Online shops have not been helpful either, so the struggle continues.

My husband mentioned a late meeting for Thursday, so our normal dinner time got delayed by almost two hours. At first I didn't mind so much (okay, I did mind a little) until I remembered that I had an art class to present and the late dinner was going to seriously mess with that. I asked my friends if we could cancel, and they graciously agreed. But the late dinner made everything late - specifically the chores required after dinner, and that also included Thursday's blog post that you are reading right now.

Friday: I mentioned self compassion on Twitter an hour or so ago. Since yesterday did not work out as planned, I decided to let it go and to add a few comments here just to catch you up.

Today started perfectly. It rained a little bit. I love the rain, and always feels grateful for the blessing of life falling down to earth. It makes my car dirty, but I don't worry about that. Although those muddy spots might look good on a SUV, it does nothing for my sporty sedan 😜

When I arrived at the lab though, the gratitude attitude evaporated with the noise of jackhammers and a workman-crowded space. Since lockdown began, I have become a bit socially anxious when there are lots of people crowding my space. The lab is a small company and I only share workspace with one person, but all these workmen today made me hide away in the lab for most of the time. My colleague also mentioned that the noise was exceptionally distressing. Both of us are introverts, so the invasion of sound and bodies was not easy.

Getting to the bathroom was a mission and a half: I know I am no skinny runway model, but walking on slippery broken tiles (and breaking more with each step), wearing hearing protection I have to mention, was definitely a first for me. 😆

Oh, the reason for the noise and workmen: they are busy re-tiling the whole building. Apparently they will finish tomorrow, so I am praying that our workspace will be its normal peaceful self on Monday.

Source: Stoic Week
How did being a Stoicism practitioner help me today (and yesterday)?

I mentioned self compassion (a timeous article linked here if you want learn more) and it reminded me of our theme this Stoic Week - wellness. In all the situations I found myself in during the past two days, I reminded myself about the value of staying calm and letting go of things that I have no control over.

Of course, I could have avoided the noise and the crowd of workmen by simply getting into my car and going home, but then I would have not finished the job I committed myself to do this week. Because of the required repairs my planning did slip two days, but finishing a job is important because I said I would finish it this week - and doing the work is within my control.

Once I came home today, I worked on the books again, instead of working on the report. I also did my Inktober drawing for today's prompt. It was my way of taking a few hours to relax and clear my mind of the day's stress. I will do the report over the weekend, but for now my mind is calm and I can plan my weekend activities with clarity.

Today we look at our world from above, and with that mindset I think I can say that it would be good to put today and yesterday behind me to look toward tomorrow with a fresh outlook on everything I need and want to do.

Have a wonderful weekend, and I will chat to you again tomorrow.

🙋‍♀️💜 Linzé



Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Personal blog: #StoicWeek2021 - Wednesday

Hello there! I thought to share this morning's study quote with you because it spoke to me.

Whatever happens to you, remember to look inside yourself and see what capacity you have to enable you to deal with it. If you catch sight of a beautiful boy or girl, you’ll find that you have self-control to deal with that; if hard work lies in store for you, you’ll find endurance, if you are insulted you’ll find patience. If you get in the habit of responding this way, you won’t get swept away by your impressions of things.

Epictetus, Handbook 10

Wednesday, 20 October, 18h59

Spend most of my day doing tests at the lab then had to tell the client that I broke the equipment and need some more samples to finish the tests. Yeah, he was not exactly impressed 🤦🏼‍♀️ LOL! Unfortunately, damage to the test samples as a result of the tests is just par for the course.

Source: StoicWeek

For today we are reminding ourselves of the four Stoic virtues: wisdom, justice, courage, and self-control. Part of our early morning "homework" included a link to a website where you can do a survey to tell you what your Stoic strengths are. Intrigued I did the questionnaire and it told me my number one strength was wisdom. Hmm, not sure how that happened.

I am working on a project to give as a Christmas gift, so not going say any more for now. But also have to do prep for tomorrow evening's art class and plan my day for tomorrow. Still have to do my evening meditation and journal for today, so will not keep you much longer.

In short:

My Stoic practice came in handy (of sorts) when I approached the bridge over the highway this morning where I had to take the off-ramp. While on the bridge (waiting for the traffic light) I spotted the traffic to the left of me standing still. Yeah, my first thought was this was going to be a long one. I then cranked my neck to look at the other side, a touch more difficult since the highway is downhill to my right. The cars were moving, so the logical deduction would be that the problem was underneath the bridge. And that should not be a problem for us getting onto highway driving North.

Yeah, you would think. When we descended down the offramp, all the drivers in front of me (yes, every single one) had to brake to see what was going on. To me that has to be the most illogical and irrational thing to do - unless of course you could be of service. But the ambulances and the police and everyone else were already on-site, so there was nothing to be done, except drive and get our little butts out of the way. But no. My dad always said that people want to see blood. Still makes no sense if you ask me. So I got my butt moving, and out of the way of the traffic that had to negotiate the accident.

Wisdom? Don't know, but definitely something about human behaviour that continues to boggle this engineering brain to this day.

Until tomorrow!

🙋‍♀️💜 Linzé

Tuesday, 19 October 2021

Personal blog: #StoicWeek2021 - Tuesday

Hello, and welcome back to my blog. This is the second day of #StoicWeek2021 and the topic for reflection today is emotions. A tough one on the best of days.

If you missed my musings yesterday, here is the link. But let's get back to my Stoic experiences of today.

Tuesday, 19 October 2021, 20h29.

Yes, I am a bit later than yesterday but I have been thinking about what I want to write about today.  Not that I am blocked or anything, but Tuesdays are my most challenging day in the week. It starts early and unlike any other day, I cannot afford to oversleep. Yes, handy little thing called a smart watch that I wear on my wrist who beeps twice to try and wake me.

Source: StoicWeek

Part of the challenges include managing the dogs while the garden services are working, cleaning up the garage if they make puddles, and then having breakfast and trying to get to work. Today I had to fetch an order I made online (delivery at home is not possible because I don't know if I will be there when the courier arrives), then I had a Zoom meeting with a financial advisor. These disruptions were not surprises, but they can seriously affect my focus when trying to work. And I had to finish the report, send it to be checked (rules of working in an accredited lab) and then prepare for the tests I have to do tomorrow.

Unless I have to go somewhere, I spend my Tuesdays working at home. Practicing Stoic philosophy seems pretty silly when there is no one else that impacts my day. Today was no different in that respect. All my interactions with other people were professional and emotions other than polite friendliness are seldom a concern.

So a pretty uneventful day even from a Stoic perspective. What did surprise me, and to some extent I forget that this happens every time during StoicWeek: I get more done in a day than normal. Stoicism? Or perhaps I know that I have more to do than normal, and don't allow myself to be distracted? Something to think about.

It is almost 9pm, and time for my last cup of coffee for the day, then my evening meditation and a few minutes with my journal.

Until tomorrow!

🙋‍♀️ Linzé

Monday, 18 October 2021

Personal blog: #StoicWeek2021 - Monday

It has been a long time since I posted a personal blog, and StoicWeek 2021 seemed to be a good time to do it again. The organisers of Stoic Week encouraged people to vlog, or share their experiences online this time around. This is not my first time taking part in Stoic Week, but changing the way I share now does not seem to be a good time. So I thought to stick to an old favourite, my blog.

My life is really hectic at this time of year, so these posts might seem cryptic or impersonal, but I can assure you they are very personal to me.

Monday, 18 October 2021, 19h33.

This is not the end of my day, but I thought to share how my Stoic Monday (practice) has gone.

My husband gets up at 5 am, and after doing all his morning stuff leaves the house at 05h30. It is then time for me to get up and start my day. Since I plan my week ahead, my early morning musings were about the time I have before leaving for the lab at 8 am.

After getting dressed (and all that is required to get to that point), I spent some time in my office doing the morning meditation/reflection using the audio file narrated by Donald Robertson. To be honest, I was not focused on his words every minute, because I reflected on my own situation at the same time. I do practice mindful meditation, and thoughts drifting off are not a real concern as I as aware of this and then bring them back to the narration (or my breath) as required.

This seemingly simple exercise has proven to be beneficial to bring a calmness to my mind which I often feel last for several hours afterwards. Given the fact that I have to drive more than 20km to the lab on a very busy highway, calmness of mind is essential as I am sure you can attest when dealing with other drivers oftentimes driving as if their attention is anywhere except where it should be.

My workload is stressful and getting worse this time of year. While I expect it, it is still causing me to feel overwhelmed more often than at other times of the year. The calmness helps, but once my attention is required for the tests, my mind then switches into overdrive and stays there for the rest of the day. I am an engineer, and focus is important since I deal with potentially hazardous situations in the lab during the tests that we do.

After spending the morning doing what I had to do, inspecting the equipment for a new job, updating the technical director on the situation, I drove home again. My mind had lost its calmness as mentioned, but I no longer get angry or upset in traffic. A situation which helped me to avoid an accident, and helped me to remain clear headed - which helps when driving at high speeds.

Source: StoicWeek 2021

On the way I had to stop for a few things at a pharmacy/department store close to home. We needed toilet paper, but I decided to wait until today to get it on the way home. We usually do our groceries shopping on a Friday or the weekend, but the store at the mall we went to, is not a favourite, thus the detour today. But they didn't have the packaging size I prefer. Making a scene was not going to help, and they did have the smaller packaging size available. So I took a breath, grabbed the toilet paper, paid for my shopping and went home. Until now I haven't even given it a second thought. Stoicism needs practice, and only when I sit down to think about it, do I notice how "instinctive" my behaviour has become especially when it comes to the matter of control.

At home, the highly intense focus usually causes me to require a few hours to relax. I had my "lunch" at the lab, so I made a light snack for lunch and caught up on a few videos on YouTube from artists that I follow. I suffer from hypoglycemia so multiple meals are required each day. This is also a good time to catch up on my personal emails. I have a work email check schedule, because it can become a huge distraction. If there is a crisis, or someone needs urgent information, all my colleagues and clients have my mobile phone number. Years of experience have taught me that no email is ever that urgent, and a quick reply usually only happens when I am online at that moment and a short answer could resolve the issue.

A second opportunity to "not get angry" presented itself when I had to place an order for my second business. The details are not important, but I took a moment to think about what I should do instead of blowing up about it. This pause to think is not easy, but it does become easier with practice - believe me.

At 4 pm I start dinner, so that we can eat by 5 pm - yes, it is already 12 hours since we started our day, so an early dinner makes sense. After dinner I packed Hubs' lunch box, loaded the dishwasher (it finished a few minutes ago), did my Inktober drawing for today, did the pencil sketch for the drawing due tomorrow, planned my work for tomorrow, and wrote in my journal about my day.

It is now 20h18 as I write these words. It is still a few hours until bedtime, which means that I can get a head start on my report. After I finish the evening meditation of the day and perhaps write a few more words in my journal.


Book Feature: Dare to be a Duchess by Sapna Bhog

 


He’s a powerful duke. She’s his uncle’s ward. They have forever been at war, until one night, one masquerade, and one kiss…

Lara Ramsay is no stranger to scandal. As the orphaned daughter of a British colonel and his beloved Indian wife, whispers follow her everywhere. Not even the protection of the formidable Duke of Wolverton, a man she can’t stand, keeps the gossips at bay.
The audacious Lara has driven Tristan Wentworth, The Duke of Wolverton, to distraction since the day his uncle took her in—and he’s quite certain doing so is her favorite pastime. After catching her and his younger sister at a salacious masquerade, he’s had enough scandal and issues a marriage ultimatum: find a husband within six months or one will be chosen for her.
Unfortunately, no one in the ton appeals to her. Except, perhaps, the duke himself. The battle of wills has only just begun, and when Lara kisses him, their fate is sealed.
Sometimes even the most proper duke needs to break the rules to win the heart of the woman he loves...

Book Links:
Goodreads * Amazon.in * Amazon.com


Quotes from Dare to be a Duchess:

“Here, right at this moment, I’m giving you an ultimatum: Find someone from the ton to marry in the next six months or I will choose someone for you.” – Duke of Wolverton

“Well then the plan is simple, ‘Divide and Rule.’” – Lara Ramsay

“You’ll be surprised that a gentleman with the best intentions can behave like a rake when faced with temptation.” – Duke of Wolverton

“I think, Wolf, that you go on and on about my undesirability and my unattractiveness as a way to convince yourself more than me. The fact is that you kissed me because I am desirable and I am very attractive indeed.” – Lara Ramsay.

“You know very well that I’m accepted in the ton, albeit grudgingly, thanks only to you. No man wants to marry me, and I don’t want to marry any of those men.” – Lara Ramsay.


Read an Excerpt from Dare to be a Duchess:

Wolf crossed his arms and glared at Lara. Despite being at fault, she was as unrepentant as ever. Her absolute nonchalance drove him mad, always. 

“It is my concern. Getting into trouble is second nature to you, so I’d be lying if I said that it gave me any pleasure to be the one to help you out.” Wolf scowled at her. “Paxton is not a fool. He only has to think closely as to whose identity I would desperately want to protect and then remember your dark hair and he will come up with your name. You truly have no sense at all.”

“Well then you shouldn’t have bothered coming to my aid,” Lara retorted. “I could have handled the situation perfectly well by myself.” 

Wolf put his hands on his hips. “And how may I ask would you have done that?”

“I’ve heard that a well planted knee on a delicate part of a man’s anatomy would normally do the trick.”

His eyebrows shot up. “You’re crazy to think that you could have deterred Paxton that easily.”

Lara merely stared at him, her head held high, further fueling his temper. 

“What, nothing to say?” he snapped. “Which brings me back to my first question. What in the world are you doing here in this depraved place?” 

Lara continued to watch him with those deep blue eyes, her lips set in a mutinous line. Her lack of response irked him even more. 

“Answer me,” Wolf demanded, his tone sharp.

She met his gaze head on. “We had no inkling this place would be so bad. And nothing untoward has occurred, so stop shouting at me.”

 “Unbelievable,” he growled. “Do you know how bad this place can be for two innocent girls like yourselves? Behind their masks and costumes, the men here have only one thing on their minds when they look at you, and you, as usual, don’t care that you could be completely ruined if discovered, let alone taken advantage of, in this den of vice. You are wild and irresponsible and you give no thought to your actions or the consequences thereof. And you 

brought Anne here? Just because you don’t care about your reputation doesn’t mean you can play fast and loose with hers.”

Lara’s eyes blazed with fury. “Anne is not a child. She is a grown woman who has a mind of her own.” 

“And that is justification for you to come here?” Wolf countered.

“I, too, have a mind of my own,” she shot back. “And I do not appreciate you telling me what I can and cannot do.”

His nostrils flared. He was the Duke of Wolverton, one of the most powerful men in England. No one defied him. And yet this one woman stood against him at every turn. Why couldn’t she understand the potential danger for her or Anne here?

About the Author:
Sapna Bhog is an author from India who writes contemporary and historical romance novels. As a self-proclaimed die-hard romantic, her books are filled with swoon-worthy heroes and feisty heroines who clash all the time, but do get their happy ever after. Sapna has always surrounded herself with books and when she is not writing she is reading. Originally from Dubai, she now lives in Western India with her husband, kids and a Siberian Husky. Sapna gave up a successful IT career and took a foray into writing and has never looked back since. Her favourite pastimes are reading, writing, traveling and shopping—not necessarily in that order. She loves to hear from readers.

Sapna on the Web:
Twitter * Facebook * Instagram

 

Friday, 3 September 2021

Book feature: Ye Gods! The Law is an Ass! by Seelie Kay

Genre: Romantic Suspense, Paranormal Romance, Mystery

Publisher: eXtasy Books
ISBN: 978-1-4874-3357-4
Page: 145
Word Count:44705
Publication Date: 2021-09-03

Book Blurb:

It was the Great Lie, and it could destroy the Vampire Nation.

In First, We Kill All the Lawyers, vampire lawyer Donovan Trait survived repeated attacks by a serial killer. Now, after violating a marital agreement with the Vampire Coalition, and several ancient Vampire Laws, Donovan, and his newly-turned vampire bride are on the run. You see, in exchange for permitting a pure-blood vampire to marry a turned human, the Traits agreed to allow vampire scientists to monitor the conception and birth of their children. When Judge Shirley Magnusen Trait turns up accidentally pregnant on her wedding day, the fury of the Coalition is unleashed. The tribunal recommends unacceptable punitive action and the Traits are forced to flee to a mysterious island of vampire nuns. The Traits are, by profession, seekers of the truth. But this time, the truth may not set them free. In fact, it could start a revolution. Will the Traits escape the clutches of the Coalition and keep their babies safe? Or will their family be…eliminated?

Book Links:
Goodreads * eXtasy Books

A Quick Interview with Seelie Kay

Why do you write romance?

Because I am fascinated by the games people play to find and secure a lasting relationship, which is not always love. There’s the chase, the courtship, the falling, the surrender. That’s what I try to capture in my stories.

Do you prefer a certain type of romantic hero?

I adore smart, dashing gentlemen who aren’t afraid to live on the edge. They can be a bad boy, a billionaire, a prince, or a secret agent. That hint of danger just hooks me! However, I they have to be paired with strong, independent women who aren’t afraid to fight for what they want, even love.

Why did you write “Ye Gods! The Law is an Ass?”

Donovan Trait is a vampire lawyer. In the human world, a very respected lawyer. I wanted to give him the opportunity to shine in the vampire world. So I created a scenario where his turned vampire bride Shirley is unfairly punished for an unintentionally violating their marital agreement, as well as other outdated, outrageous, and outright discriminatory laws—she unintentionally  To survive and protect their unborn child, they must not only fight back, but also rebel. In this instance, human history provides them with the path. That gave me the opportunity to draw parallels between the fight for human rights and the rights of vampires who aren’t purebloods. It also allowed me to poke at the continued need of both societies to embrace social change. Perhaps surprisingly, the vampires lag far behind the humans in terms of equality and individual freedoms. However, in the end, the message is clear: Whether human or vampire, an individual is entitled to certain rights and liberties. And no human or vampire has a right to deny them.

About Seelie Kay:

Award-winning author Seelie Kay writes about lawyers in love, sometimes with a dash of kink.
Writing under a nom de plume, the former lawyer and journalist draws her stories from more than 30 years in the legal world. Seelie’s wicked pen has resulted in nineteen works of fiction, including the new paranormal romance series Donovan Trait, as well the erotic romance Kinky Briefs series and The Feisty Lawyers romantic suspense series. She also authored The Last Christmas, The Garage Dweller, A Touchdown to Remember, The President’s Wife, The President’s Daughter, Seizing Hope, The White House Wedding, and participated in the romance anthology Pieces of Us.
When not spinning romantic tales, Seelie ghostwrites nonfiction for lawyers and other professionals. Currently, she resides in a bucolic exurb outside Milwaukee, WI, where she enjoys opera, the Green Bay Packers, gourmet cooking, organic gardening, and an occasional bottle of red wine. 

Seelie is an MS warrior and ruthlessly battles the disease on a daily basis. Her message to those diagnosed with MS: Never give up. You define MS, it does not define you!

Seelie on the Web:
Website * Blog * Twitter * Facebook * Instagram * Author's Amazon Page



Monday, 10 May 2021

Book review: BEING BETTER by Kai Whiting and Leonidas Konstantakos

Being Better, book cover image
AMAZON LINK
 I received (gratefully) a copy of the book from Kai and volunteered to review it. I don't write reviews in the same way other people do, so I won't blame you if you would rather not go to the trouble of reading this review.

I won't rehash the synopsis nor the contents of non-fiction books, there are other reviews(1) if you prefer those instead. My review is purely based on my experience of reading the contents and how it will (or do) impact my life as a Stoic practitioner.

That being said, let's get stuck in.

I have been a student and practitioner of Stoicism going for five years now. I started the practice because I needed to learn to deal with the incredibly stressful environment of the industry I was working in at the time. Since leaving my last employer, I am now fully self-employed, I have continued the practise purely because of the benefits to myself.

This book has enriched my practice but also increased my understanding of Stoicism as being more than a way of improving myself. Studying translations of the original texts of the Stoics is not easy for someone who is not a linguist nor a trained philosopher. Being Better, and the work done by the authors helps to make the original texts more palatable for a modern mind.

Stoicism is a practical philosophy that provides an antidote for troubled times, while it also keeps our ego and excesses in check when things are going well. Stoicism helps us to understand ourselves and other people better and to navigate a path through life’s challenges and successes. Zeno and his Stoics understood that the “good life” is rooted in communal living, which includes partaking in civic duties, building strong local ties, and being open to, and appreciative of, the universal community that extends across the whole world.

Stoicism won’t remove all of life’s obstacles, but it helps us to think differently about them. It won’t provide us with all the answers, but it gives us the ability to form the questions that ultimately lead to the solutions. Stoicism may be more than two thousand years old, but Zeno’s wisdom is as powerful as ever.”

Although a very practical philosophy, I found that there is more to learn about Stoicism and to understand my place in the greater society I live in. Oftentimes we see ourselves as an island, but with more study and greater understanding, it has become clear that my life has an impact on more than my own improvement as a person.

Using my work as a consulting engineer to explain: What I do directly impacts the products and companies that I work with. This then ripples out to the people and industries that end up using these products worldwide.

Although I have been aware of this for some time, the greater influence of what I do (or neglect to do) could have a much wider impact than what I thought at first. The details are not important, but what is important is that I need to be continually aware that I have to do the right thing, make the right decisions, and advise my clients to the best of my knowledge and abilities. This is not easy to do, but a constant reminder of the Stoic principles of wisdom, self-control, justice, and courage makes it possible.

Being Better reminded me that slacking on my own learning, could be detrimental to others around me. I love learning, but it is the awareness that it is continuous learning that contributes to living a virtuous life. I am by no means the only person who does what I do, so it also brings the added responsibility of bringing this mindset to those within my influence, Stoic philosophy notwithstanding.

One thing about Being Better that particularly spoke to me was “the principle of 'Only the educated are free' [which] embodies a continual search for wisdom and a perpetual questioning in order to know what to do or not to do and how best to succeed.”

Only once I understood the impact this had on Sparta (discussed in chapter 7) did it resonate with my own opinion of the situation in my own country. South Africa has had turbulent times due to corruption and crime at the highest levels of government.

Overcoming the wrongs of decades of history, by the more wrongdoing of the “uneducated recent past” will not be simple. But learning from the Stoics like Sphaerus could provide a way forward even for the modern problems that countries dragged down by corruption could benefit from.

This sounds like an impossible task for a modern country with massive issues of which economic decline is just one. But what will happen if I in my own small way manages to influence someone, who then influences someone else, who eventually is in the right position to make the right impact at the right time? I am not that important, nor do I think that it will necessarily be because of me living a virtuous life, but what if it does?

Another aspect that was clarified (at least to my mind) is the principle of “living in accordance with nature”.

...a Stoic’s appreciation of Nature goes beyond taking selfies and a superficial enjoyment of breathtaking sights and sounds. It involves a profound thirst for the kind of knowledge that helps us understand how the world works and our position within it.”

Living in accordance with nature has always been a matter of interpretation in many articles on the subject that I have read over the years, but I think that the authors explained it in a way that makes sense irrespective of my own beliefs.

Being Better is a book to introduce people to think about these things, and could have a much wider impact on how we think about our roles, our circles, our lives, than what we can imagine.

The questions posed at the end of each chapter raised my thinking about these issues. The book does not provide the answers, because the answers cannot be given. After all, it is up to us, up to me, to ask the right questions for our situations, to seek the answers that we need for our own lives and communities.

Stoicism is not about doing the impossible or trying to singlehandedly solve complex social or environmental issues. It’s about consistently doing what you can within the life you lead using the personality, knowledge, social role, network, and skillset that you already have.”

And this in essence is why I decided to study Stoicism and why I wanted to read this book. To practice Stoic philosophy and to live a virtuous life with “the decision to strive for eudaimonia, that is to say, for a life worthy of being lived and for a world worth living in.”

I recommend reading Being Better because it increased my understanding of some of the practical aspects of Stoicism. The examples (both historical and modern) provided the practical ways that people have lived their lives in a way that can inspire every one of us to strive for eudaimoniaa life worth living.

A last comment: I own and study several translations of the works by Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius. If you are interested in learning more about Stoicism, a comprehensive list is given at the end of the book with the appropriate references to the text in each chapter.

(1) Academic review, and Kai's comments about the book

Linzé's rating: 4.5 💜


Friday, 30 April 2021

The #CreativeLife 2021 A to Z Blog Challenge: Z is for...

Zero excuses

Nope, this is not a post to preach to you today. This is what I decided at the beginning 2019 - no more excuses. I take part in challenges like this blog challenge, Inktober, and NaNoWriMo so that I can plan to do creative things.

I love my job, but working too many hours is not good for my mental health or my need to create. So I made the decision to stop procrastinating and to stop using a bag full of excuses to not do the things I love.

Is it working? Yes! Do I need time some time to just binge on Netflix? Yes, but it is a decision and not just an excuse anymore.

Until next time!
💚 Linzé 

PS: Keep an eye out for a series about some other stuff I do like to do - coming very soon!

Thursday, 29 April 2021

The #CreativeLife 2021 A to Z Blog Challenge: Y is for...

 Yellow

The last of the three primary colours. I find it interesting that two of the three colours are considered warm colours - red and yellow.

Last year colours were some of the prompts we did for the #inktober52 challenge. Since I like illuminated letters, here is the Y I drew for the challenge.

Letter Y done in illuminated style with green and purple ink, with daffodils decoration, artist Linzé Brandon, signed LdV-V
Illuminated letter Y
Comments and sharing you art are most welcome on Twitter, thank you for visiting my blog today.

Until tomorrow!

💚 Linzé 


Wednesday, 28 April 2021

The #CreativeLife 2021 A to Z Blog Challenge: X is for...

 Xanadu

Some colours have weird names, but who am I to argue? 😉

Here is one of them. The colour was generated using the website coloors.co 
Comments and sharing are most welcome on Twitter, thank you for visiting my blog today.

Until tomorrow!

💛 Linzé 

The CreativeLife in review - planning, time management, and the creative life

  Hey there, creative friend! It's been a week or more since my last post but mostly because I have been taking time to do other things....